Rory back in the groove just in time for Au­gusta

Daily Mail - - Cricket -

THE winner’s prize of an iconic red Arnold Palmer cardi­gan might have eluded Rory McIl­roy at Bay Hill on Sun­day but we can surely now feel a lot more up­beat about his chances of be­ing clad in Au­gusta green in three weeks.

What an amaz­ing turn­around we’ve seen over the past month, when Paul McGin­ley was un­der­stand­ably fret­ting about the dis­tract­ing head­lines McIl­roy had at­tracted af­ter play­ing golf with US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Fur­ther­more, af­ter two months on the side­lines re­cov­er­ing from a rib frac­ture and with just three events sched­uled be­fore the sea­son’s first ma­jor, McIl­roy (right) was in dan­ger of be­ing hor­ri­bly un­der­cooked in his quest for the ca­reer Grand Slam at the Masters.

Yet the North­ern Ir­ish­man has man­aged to as­suage many of the doubts with two stir­ring per­for­mances. True, he would al­most cer­tainly have won one of them had he been play­ing the sched­ule he had orig­i­nally in­tended and been ra­zor- sharp but he’s head­ing rapidly in the right di­rec­tion.

‘I’m just happy to be out here again and play­ing in a run of events,’ said the 27-year-old, who shot rounds of 65, 69 at the week­end to fin­ish tied fourth along­side English­man Tyrrell Hat­ton at the Arnold Palmer In­vi­ta­tional.

‘I gave it a good run in the fi­nal two rounds and I’m re­ally pleased with how I played. Now I’m look­ing for­ward to build­ing on that at the Match Play in Austin this week and ul­ti­mately at the Masters.’

McIl­roy made his move when con­di­tions turned hard and fas­trun­ning at Bay Hill, as they will be at Au­gusta in three weeks.

He de­mol­ished the four par-fives, play­ing them in seven un­der par over the last 36 holes, and again that’s what will be needed at the Masters. Most en­cour­ag­ing of all was how di­alled in he was with his wedges. Dis­tance con­trol with his short irons has never been a McIl­roy strength, and there’s no mar­gin for er­ror at Au­gusta. But over the week­end he was on the money with th­ese clubs, time and again. McIl­roy, back up to No 2 in the world be­hind Dustin John­son, now trav­els to Texas for a pleas­ing change of for­mat and pace, in his fi­nal event be­fore the an­nual rite of spring in Ge­or­gia.

A rare form of great­ness beck­ons over those cher­ished acres, of course. Only Tiger Woods has com­pleted the ca­reer Grand Slam since the 1960s and only five play­ers — Gene Sarazen, Ben Ho­gan, Gary Player and Jack Nick­laus are the oth­ers — have done so in all.

The ex­cit­ing thought is that McIl­roy is in far bet­ter shape to em­brace the for­bid­ding chal­lenge than seemed pos­si­ble just a month ago.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.